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Wednesday, 13 November 1985
Page: 2075


Senator GRIMES —Yesterday Senator Foreman asked me a question about the possibility of sun tanning pills causing damage, which arose from a report in the Australian Consumer Association's journal, Choice. I have received the following information from the Minister for Health: It seems, according to the Department of Health, that the report may, in fact, overstate the risk mentioned by Senator Foreman. Capsules containing an approved food colouring-canthaxanthine-have been sold without prescription in Australia for many years. Intake of these capsules produces a bronzing of the skin which can resemble suntan. Case reports from Canada, West Germany and Sweden have shown that a daily intake of these capsules for about two months or more can result in a ring of crystals of the substance being deposited in the retinae of the user. In West Germany and Sweden these capsules have been banned. In France, labelling now recommends a maximum use of two months each year.

The matter was considered by the Australian Adverse Drug Reactions Advisory Committee on 16 August this year. Two problems emerged: Firstly, contrary to ACA's quoted claims, ADRAC found little evidence that such retinal deposits impair vision; and, secondly, the doses of canthaxanthine taken lie within the current accepted daily intake as a permitted food colour. The Committee has initiated the following actions: The Royal Australian College of Ophthalmoligists has been asked for urgent advice on certain technical matters; requests have been made for prompt evaluation of available data by the Department of Health; notification of the problem has been provided to State and Territory health authorities, pharmaceutical and foodstuff manufacturers which are known to use the substance, the Australian Federation of Consumer Organisations, the Australian Consumers Organisation and ophthamological, optometrical and pharmaceutical professional organisations, and the matter has been referred to the Food Science and Technology Committee. The matter will be considered again on Friday, 15 November. The Department is seeking a copy of the South Australian report to evaluate it together with other available information.